The Green Hills Wild Oats is slated to close its doors in late October, leaving vacant a sizeable chunk of property on booming Hillsboro Road.
So who will step in and grab that property?
Local developers and real estate brokers say they’re watching the space for developments, but no definite plans have been announced. It may, in fact, take some time for the building to fill again.
“It’s an interesting and somewhat complex problem,” said Trey Rochford of Rochford Realty and Construction Company.
Whole Foods Market’s corporate acquisition of Wild Oats Market Inc. closed last week, and the company has confirmed that the Green Hills Wild Oats will combine with a soon-to-open Whole Foods store at Hill Center.
Nashville’s Wild Oats store will close the week before Whole Foods’ Nov. 1 opening.
The Wild Oats building and land are both owned by the Green Hills Market entity, which includes members of the Roy and Dorothy Primm family. Wild Oats currently leases the space. Sonja Tuitele, a spokesperson for Wild Oats, said the retailer’s lease is up at the end of this year but includes options for extension.
“I don’t know what Whole Foods plans to do with that lease,” Tuitele said. “If they extended it, it would be likely that they sub-lease it to another tenant.”
Whole Foods spokesperson Darrah Horgan said plans for the lease are undecided.
“It’s one of the many things that will shake out as we get into the stores and get more details, but right now, we do not have a plan in place for the space,” Horgan said.
An attorney reported to be representing owners of the property could not be reached Tuesday.
The location of the property and quick turnover of Green Hills real estate suggests that the property won’t go unoccupied long. Less than 1 percent of sales space in the Green Hills/Belle Meade area stands vacant, according to figures released by Grubb & Ellis.
But developers and brokers say the space is an odd one. If the current owners elect not to sell, or if the existing lease is extended for sub-lease, potential occupants for the existing building are limited.
Rochford pointed to the amount of time it took for nearby Grace’s Plaza, another mall-accessible Hillsboro Road property that recently lost a major tenant, to fill after Davis-Kidd Booksellers moved to the Mall at Green Hills. While the space has now effectively been reinvented, with a two-story Tennessee Bank & Trust location and several small, luxury and upscale retailers, it was more than a year after Davis-Kidd’s departure that the area was again full of customers.
The building is obviously conducive to use as a grocery, without expensive changes being made, and at least one major grocery retailer is known to be interested in entering the Green Hills market. The area already has several grocery stores, however, which may limit interest.
And while local fashion-lovers would love to see a Nordstrom come to town, the land may be too small and too far from the Mall at Green Hills to be used for that purpose. Most Nordstrom stores are 150,000 square feet in size or larger, according to the company. To put the size into perspective, the still-under-construction Hill Center on Hillsboro Road consists of 220,000 square feet.
Joey Valenti, an affiliate broker in the retail services group of Grubb & Ellis Centennial Inc., said serious activity related to the space might not happen until nearby Hill Center opens and is gauged to be successful.
“It might be vacant a bit longer than someone might think,” Valenti said. “I’m sure someone, just to get into Green Hills, will make it work.”
The property, which has also been home to a Green Hills Market and Service Merchandise store in its history, is located at 3909 Hillsboro Pike and was appraised by Davidson County as being worth $4.4 million. Most of that value is in the 1.7-acre tract of land, which was appraised at $2.7 million. The 23,880-square-foot building, constructed in 1970, was appraised at $1.7 million.
Horgan said the Green Hills location is the only Wild Oats store to be immediately affected by the merger.
“It’s a unique situation because we had the Green Hills Whole Foods Market in the works here, and because of its proximity to the existing Wild Oats store,” Horgan said. “Other Wild Oats stores around the country might be affected at some point, but we will begin assessing locations around the country and release any closings all at one time at a later date.”